Monday, December 27, 2010

In Which My Secret Mission Is Revealed: Now With More Christmas!

Hello, readers.

It has taken nearly a year of "teaching" and "being awesome" but, at last, my secret mission as an English teacher in Korea is complete.

After showing students a certain episode of Doctor Who, the talk from my co-teacher is that some of the students have begun discussing their need for every episode ever.

This is the power of "Blink."

Other side-effects are that I'm pretty sure the teddy bears below are interdimensional robot assasins sent from the future to steal our hearts and eat them. Just keep your eyes on the screen. You'll be fine.

Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong


After eating a small child's heart, the bears' fur takes on a red hue.

Book Binders on Garosu-gil

A small part of the shiny of Lotte Department Store at Euljiro il-ga

Ice Skating Downtown

Serious work.

The line for skates.

Happy Monday, readers. Keep your eyes open.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Which Promises Are Kept and Doctor Who Gets A Very Brief Mention

Hello, readers.

Merry Christmas, if that's your cup of tea. If you don't like tea I don't know what to do with you.

But here are pictures, though, of Seoul Plaza and Christmas, of trumpeting angels and giant trees and snow globes. This is a city what likes the shiny thing.


And now, I think, it's time for Doctor Who. Come back tomorrow, readers, for ice skating and creepy, animatronic bears.

Happy merry.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

In Which There Are Things and Promises

Hello, readers.

Aquarium Drunkard is a wonderful musical blog. It's run by a man in California and named after a Wilco song. It has featured French songs and soul songs and Guthrie songs and zombie songs and, right now, you should listen to Rock n' Roll Santa by Yo La Tengo as you continue reading. It's December, after all. Or you could sample the Beatles' Christmas Singles. They're a pretty good band.

Speaking of Christmas, Seoul has erected a giant Christmas tree and snow-globe in the City Hall Plaza. Also, there are sparkly department store displays featuring elves, neon ice, and igloos made of plastic-jugs.  Pictures soon. Promise.

This past week the students completed their speaking tests.  They performed conversations they wrote themselves. These conversations were generally about trips to far-away places like Los Angeles or Bali. Two sets of students expressed a wish to go to England so they could learn to speak English with a British accent. A few wondered about things: alien first contact or the dumb sadness of Hans Christian Anderson's, "The Little Mermaid." One group wondered what would happen if Korea became a unified country.

Also last week, my review of Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake went up at Strange Horizons.

Also also, of late, I've found more and cool useful things to do with the Kindle. There's kindlefeeder, for example, which will collect, and mail, up to 12 feeds for free to your Kindle. It costs extra for more feeds and automatic delivery. This, plus Instapaper, has made the Kindle into an efficient and magical enabler of reading all those New Yorker essays, online short stories, and random blogs, which I always meant to read but never did.

For example, this New Yorker essay on sitcoms and Chuck Lorre. They speak generously of Two and a Half Men's laugh appeal, and glowingly about the scientifical funniness of The Big Bang Theory--a show I suppose, at some point, I should try.

Or, "Superhero Girl" in Fantasy Magazine or "The Taxidermist's Other Wife" in Clarkesworld. Both of these are good things to read, too.

As are the many and sundry lists of best music, books, geeky gifts, and Korean dramas of the past year. It is that time of year. In the coming days I will post my own lists. Possibly of some of those things. Possibly of others. Probably not of cats.

Happy December, readers.


Friday, November 26, 2010


Hello, readers.

It is six o'clock in the p.m. on a Friday of no particular color in Korea. People here are, for the most part, maintaining a certain kind of practiced indifference towards the possibility of impossibly bad things happening.

In America, it is in the very early morning of Black Friday and people are lining up in the hopes of achieving free lattes or half-price jetpacks or whatever it is that people think worth waking and standing in line for at 3 a.m.

Here are things I am thankful for.

1) A friend pointing out to me Joss Whedon's response to Warner Brothers' announcement of a new Buffy movie. This is what he, Joss Whedon, said.

"This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths - just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my 'Avengers' idea that I made up myself."

2) Tea. Especially English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey. Also, ginger tea. And this one cinnamon kind of tea they have in Korea whose name, in Korean, sounds similar to coffee.

3) Coffee. Korea has a fantastic amount of coffee shops and cafes, from the terribly cute and sometimes wonderful, to the terribly wonderful and usually still cute. Also, there are Princess Cafes where you can dress in sparkly, sparkly dresses. One of my favorite new kinds of coffee is a concoction called The Mad Scientist.

4) Korea. It has grown on me. Not entirely in a fungal/body snatcher way, though there's some of that, but more in a place with Mad Scientist blends of coffee and people who are kind and interesting and sometimes rude and so very similar to the sorts of people that live in other places--except that here they tend to be relatively shorter, healthier, and surprisingly afraid of fans. There are also a lot of motorcycles.

5) My students, who in large part account for number 4. They are cute and smart and today, during their speaking test, one pair discussed the possibility of starting a zombie colony on Mars so as to allow our two cultures to co-exist in a peacable, non-apocalyptic manner.

6) Friends, new and close and older and farther away.

7) Stories.

8) Lists

9) The internet, and, as part of that, the future. It worries me sometimes the intangibleness of everything floating around out there--all those paperless books and messaged hearts and complicated emoticons. But, then, there's this:

10) "One sees clearly only with the heart. Everything essential is invisible."

11) Food, which up to this point, happily remains quite visible and tangible and smell-able, with its various smells of ginger, sugar, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, browned butter, maple, rosemary, and garlic.

12) You. Also, me. Words of all kinds really. They are inadequate but useful things. Erm and also are two of my favorites.

13) Pictures. The internet is full of them. Here are some.

14) Also, this.

15) And that.

16) And so forth.

17) Happy Thanksgiving, readers.

18) ttfn.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kindle Doohickeys

Hello, readers.

Today is the day Korean high school seniors take a test in order to determine whether or not they will succeed or fail as human beings. It's kind of like the SAT in the U.S. Yesterday, in my neighborhood subway station, random high school seniors asked me to wish them good luck and so I did and I hope it helped.

Today is also a day I did not have to teach since, even though I don't teach seniors, the 1st and 2nd graders (Korea has 3 grades in high school) are not allowed to come to school since they will make noise and the 3rd graders taking the most important test in their life are quite prepared to kill anything that moves. One of my co-teachers, who must monitor test-taking students, said he had to remain perfectly still or risk being eaten.

I spent the day reading a book made of paper (Salem's Lot--a gift from a friend for All Hallow's Read) and also writing and then deciding to take a moment to blog about my newest obsession--reading things without paper.

For example, did you know there is software and instructions on how best to read Manga on your Kindle? I did not, until I did, and once I did, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to finally get around to reading some Manga.

Once I had a copy of Battle Angel Alita, but that was as far as I went.

This turned out to be a good place to get started reading more Manga.

Here's some other Kindle-y useful things.

Calibre will convert pretty much any e-book format into any other e-book format.

Wired has a guide on how to do almost everything with a Kindle.

Project Gutenberg is a good place to get free ebooks of classics past their copyright.

Also, as a friend pointed out, there are Kindle games. Even Scrabble (though for this you have to pay $4.99).

As well, it's incredibly useful, I've found, to forward the stories that friends send me to the Kindle. Instead of reading them on a laptop, or printing them on scrap paper, I can look upon the Kindle and forget that it's there and simply enjoy reading and making notes as I go.

Niftyness, really.

Happy test day, readers.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Mountains. That's all.

I decided not to edit yesterday's post. Mountains are big things. They need their own space. Like trolls. Or beanstalks.

Here are pictures.

Happy fall, readers.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kindle.Typist. Mountains.

Hello, readers.

This past Thursday, my Kindle arrived. I have been tweeting about it. 

I realize I am late to the e-reading party. My Kindle is the Kindle 3, after all.

Still, I was excited and unsure and worried that the lack of smell, and heft, would bother me, and now, having put the Kindle to the test, I find myself in the usual position of thinking myself a very silly person.  The future is not such a bad place to be.

On a pair of five-plus hour bus rides to the southwesterly parts of Korea and back, I read one entire novel (The Typist by Michael Knight), many bits of The New Yorker, news from The New York Times and BBC, checked my e-mail, tweeted, and loved every bit of it.

To be sure, the internetty bits of the Kindle experience are black and white and a bit slow and nothing like you would have on an Ipad (with its multicolored and absorbitant powers) or even, probably, a decent-sized smartphone, but it works rather well--especially for reading newspaper articles or columns or short-stories or anything wordy, really. The web-browser has a mode called, "Articles Mode" that dispenses with the ads and links around an article and presents you with a nicely formatted, high-contrast, easy-to-read version of whatever it is you want to read.

It's the easy-to-read thing that is the kicker. For a long time, I have read places like the Times and The New Yorker or Strange Horizons on my computer, and while it's colorful and wonderful and graphic, it was always annoying after an hour or so, if not less. Backlit screens shooting electrons into eyeballs, make my head swimmy, my eyes annoyed. But, on the Kindle, The New Yorker can be browsed and read for however long you have and there's no swimminess. It's just reading.

E-ink, with all it's reflective and unbacklit power, is wonderful. My eyes endorse it.

Also, here's the thing.

I love books. I do love the way they smell and the way they fold and the way they turn yellow. I have been reading them since, as far as I know, my motor functions allowed me to hold one--before that they were read to me. But, I will admit, there was something very freeing about reading a novel on the Kindle. I didn't have to pack the book, for one. But, more, I didn't have to turn the pages or notice page numbers or how far along I was or remember to place a bookmark. I just read and read and read and sometimes looked outside at passing mountains and then read some more. It was nice.

Tomorrow I'll edit this post with pictures of mountains. It is late now. My head is swimmy.

Sleep well, readers.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Escalators. Fire. Hello.

Hello, readers.

Of late, two people have made mention to me of the existence of this blog and pondered as to my own continued existence.

In honor of them, and to solidify my still-existing state, here are pictures and words.
Two weeks ago, I visited Busan for the film festival. There, I saw five films, of which one I loved without qualification, one I loved with some surprise, and one was about two very old and very child-like brothers who were washed away to a far-away land during their childhood. That movie featured a dead Nazi paratrooper on the beach and American submariners who spoke with Eastern European accents. The other two films I saw I've mostly succeeded in forgetting.

Giant sign. Normal-sized people.

Time of Eve, a wonderful movie about robots.

Actors, photographer, and a ghost.
Many films were at a cinema located inside the world's largest department store. The place is called Shinsegae. Inside they have an ice rink. On the roof, there is a park.  I was fascinated by the escalators for some reason.

Not an escalator.

I am of course also fascinated by people dancing with fire. This was last night in Hongdae Park. 

More later, as always, readers..


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Singing Room Sparkle

Hello, readers.

It's the tenth anniversary month of Strange Horizons. Presently, they're celebrating ten years of speculative non-fiction articles and interviews which have covered a gamut of speculativeness, from interviews with the likes of Kelly Link or Terry Brooks, to articles about elven power chords and rational magic.

They are also collecting donations, so that such and future wonders shall not perish from the earth.

And, if you didn't know, Neil Gaiman has written an episode for next season's Doctor Who. Originally, it was to be for this year, but then they ran out of money, so they scheduled it to run next season. And then they asked him to rewrite it so that it wouldn't cause them to run out of money for next season, since they planned, for some reason, on having other episodes besides his. A table reading has recently occurred, though, of Neil Gaiman's now, possibly finished Dr. Who episode, so maybe it really will exist one day.

In other news, yesterday a group of people, of which I was a person, visited a singing room. In Korea, these rooms are called Noraebang. In Japan, they are called karaoke. I understand, from people experienced as Koreans, that these words mean different things. And, in fact, in Korea I have seen rooms called Karaoke. I do not know what the difference is. I could google it, but sometimes mystery is nice.

What a singing room is, is  a round room with an arc-couch along the back wall and a circular table in the middle. There is a large TV at the front and tamborines on the couch. The room also comes with two very big books of both Korean and English songs, and something like a large, old calculator,  which sits on the table and allows you to punch in the code for the song you want to sing.

Having punched in the code for a song, say Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or "My Heart Will Go On," the regular room lights dim and then sparklier lights begin to flash. A video plays on the large TV. The words you are to sing will show up on this video. The video itself, from my one night of experience, will almost certainly be a Korean video that more or less doesn't not exactly fit the song. For "My Heart Will Go On", there was a video of a futuristic war involving Koreans, a jungle, and what looked a lot like lasers. In the end, someone did drown, though.

Other things I discovered during this experience are:

1) It's better if the room is less hot.
2) Duets are best if both people know the words, or at least the language, of the song chosen for a duet.
3) Unless said song consists of a lot of La, La, La, or Ha, Ha Ha, Ha, kind of words. Those are universally easy, not to mention awesome, to sing.
4) Tamborines are fun.
5) Calculators are simple.
6) Things that look kind of like calculators but have many more buttons than calculators are usually not.
7) Some of the people I know can sing.

In future news, next week is a holiday in Korea called Chuseok. It is a harvest holiday that Koreans tell me is like Thanksgiving, presumably so that I understand it involves family reunions and generous amounts of food, and not that it involves turkeys, football, awkward historical truths, awkward contemporary truths, and Christmas shopping.

During said holiday week, I will spend some time catching up on writing and reading, and some time visiting a co-teacher and previously mentioned people who live in places south of Seoul.

Hopefully these visits involve the generous amounts of food hinted at. If not, I will settle for an awkward truth or two, historical or contemporary. Either of these can be surprisingly filling.

Happy holidays, readers.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wonderlands, Part Two

Hello, readers.

At the Sungkok Art Museum, from now until September 26th (or November 11th), there is an exhibition called, "Over the Rainbow, Parts One and Two." It is a celebration of multiculturalism by way of industrial pipes, black lights, spice labs, waltz rooms, white blobs named Amu (which means anybody in Korean), henna, and much more!

Well, maybe not that much. But it was cool.

Click the clicky thing for pictures and comments.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wonderlands, Part One

Hello, readers.

Spent the night meeting new writer people. New in the sense that I had not met them, not in the sense that they were new to writing or to being people. Both, in fact, seemed more or less comfortable with being human*, and were graduates of Clarion, that purportedly mad wonderful six-week spec fic workshop that happens in San Diego and Seattle and usually, at some point, features water balloons.

Talk was had in Hongdae--at Cafe aA, and then Zen Hideway, and then Queen's Head. Zen Hideaway is a restaurant next to aA. It features very comfortable chairs, a terrace with fish, and food which is made, and served, with care. Queen's head is a micro-brewery that has decent beer (according to the new writer people who had it) and not bad coffee (according to me). There's also a room, of small and dusty circumstance, which, as was noted, inspires in one the feeling that plots ought to be hatched. It seemed appropriate.

The talk centered mostly on fiction and Korea. Authors and shows were bandied about and judged and wondered over. Unknown names were explained. The identity of M. Night Shymalan's last good film was debated. At one point, we toasted science.

It was one of those nights.

Alas, I took no pictures.

Instead, I've included unrelated pictures of art things.  The preceeding came from Insa Art Center in Insadong, a touristy, not so uncool, neighborhood of Seoul. After the break, there are a few more art things from an exhibition called Wonderland. The artist's name is An Eun Mi. Here work was shown, for a time, at Gallery Is in Insadong. It was strange.


Friday, September 10, 2010


Hello, readers.

If you ever find yourself in Seoul, eat at Zelen in Itaewon. It's run by Bulgarian brothers of such attractiveness that things are said about it. The restaurant is also a very nice green with green walls and green leafy bits and a statue of a mermaid in the center which is not green.

They serve food which also is pretty.

It tastes good, too.

They've opened another branch in Hannam-dong because of their being too awesome.

One of the brothers took our orders and was very thoughtful about whether any wheat might be in anything. We talked about this. In English. It was nice. Here's what the vegeterian moussaka looks like.

For more, go here or here.

Happy eating, readers.